CAAT supporters with Stop Arming Israel placards stand outside the High Court in London

MEDIA RELEASE: Arms to Israel court case reveals a ‘hiatus’ in legal assessments and a delay in important decisions

This government likes to claim we have a robust arms export licensing system. This claim is now in tatters.

  • Government lawyer James Eadie admitted there has been a “hiatus” in legal assessments over whether Israel is breaching International Humanitarian Law (IHL) for reasons he “couldn’t go into” and that “decisions of some importance have been delayed for some time”.  Eadie also said that these delayed decisions were due “imminently” – probably in mid to late May.


  • The hearing also revealed that the Secretary of State for Business and Trade last reviewed and approved arms sales to Israel on 8th April. However, according to information given in court, this review only covered IHL violations committed in the period up to 28th January as the judge stated that the legal case into this review would only cover violations up to this date.


  • There was also an IHL compliance assessment completed by Foreign Office lawyers on 27th March covering the period 29th January to 29th February. However, given the judge’s comments above, it doesn’t appear as if this assessment was included as part of the 8th April review.


  • Based on the evidence provided, the government has not reviewed whether Israel is committing IHL violations since 29th January in the context of arms export reviews, and it has not received any legal advice on whether Israel is complying with IHL on any violations committed after 29th February. This would mean that the Secretary of State for Business and Trade hasn’t considered any violations or atrocities from the last 3 months in their decision to keep exporting arms to Israel.


  • While we do not know the contents of the 27th March assessment, the fact that it may not have been considered in the 8th April review raises serious questions over its contents, especially given the allegation from senior Conservative MP and chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Alicia Kearns, that the government is suppressing legal advice confirming that Israel is violating IHL.


  • The revelations were made at a hearing at the High Court during an application for a Judicial Review against the government’s continued licensing of arms to Israel. The case, brought by GLAN and Al-Haq, was given permission to proceed and a full hearing will take place in October.

CAAT’s Media Coordinator, Emily Apple, said:

“This government likes to claim we have a robust arms export licensing system. This claim is now in tatters. Israel is committing horrific war crimes with the aid of UK weapons and yet our government has suspended legal assessments of its compliance with international law, and delayed vital decisions.

“It is outrageous that it has taken a court case for these revelations to come to light. David Cameron and other foreign office ministers have repeatedly avoided scrutiny on this issue. They are making a mockery of international law and a mockery of parliamentary scrutiny.

“While it’s good news that this case will now proceed, we cannot wait until October for an arms embargo. Our government and the UK arms trade is complicit in genocide and they know it. We all need to keep up the pressure and demand that they stop prioritising the profits of arms dealers over Palestinian lives.”

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